LAS VEGAS (AP) — The casino industry's main lobbying group has quietly ended its push to legalize online gambling nationwide, a shift from a few months ago when it urged Congress to approve and regulate the practice.
The American Gaming Association's move comes as the matter sharply divides its members, who have joined rival coalitions for and against a bill that would impose a blanket federal ban on online gambling.
"It is not an issue we are focusing on, but rather letting others take the lead," American Gaming Association spokesman Christopher Moyer said Thursday.
AGA will instead hone in on more mundane issues such as modernizing license and regulation systems because "the AGA Board, including members on all sides of the issue, collectively agree that the right role for its trade association is to advocate for the many issues that unite our industry," President Geoff Freeman said.
Officials with the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling declined to comment. The Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection, a pro-Internet gambling group, said it would continue its fight against a congressional ban.
Freeman took the helm of the association last spring on a mission to find consensus on online gambling, which is already legal in three states. But that task has proven all but impossible.
Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson has backed a bill, introduced in both chambers of Congress in March, that would make the practice illegal nationwide. The billionaire Republican super donor said he worries that placing a casino on every mobile device would devastate poor families, and he's vowed to do whatever it takes to stop the spread of Internet gambling.
MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment have invested in the burgeoning industry and take an opposite stance on the bill. Freeman took their side when he testified before Congress in December that banning online gambling would strengthen the black market.
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